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One of the world's most eminent scholars of East Asia reveals the important touchstones in the long history between China and Japan and argues that for the sake of world stability they must forge a new relationship for the 21st century.

China and Japan have cultural and political connections that stretch back 1,500 years. But today their relationship is strained. China's military build-up deeply worries Japan, while Japan's brutal occupation of China in World War II remains an open wound. In recent years less than ten percent of each population had positive feelings toward the other, and both countries insist that the other side must deal openly with its history before relations can improve.

From the 6th century, when the Japanese adopted core elements of Chinese civilization, to the late 20th century, when China looked to Japan for a path to capitalism, Ezra Vogel's China and Japan examines key turning points in Sino-Japanese history. Throughout much of their past, the two countries maintained deep cultural ties, but China, with its great civilization and resources, had the upper hand. Japan's success in modernizing in the 19th century and its victory in the 1894–95 Sino-Japanese War changed the dynamic, putting Japan in the dominant position. The bitter legacy of World War II has made co-operation difficult, despite efforts to promote trade and, more recently, tourism.

Vogel underscores the need for Japan to offer a thorough apology for the war, but he also urges China to recognize Japan as a potential vital partner in the region. He argues that for the sake of a stable world order, these two Asian giants must reset their relationship, starting with their common interests in environmental protection, disaster relief, global economic development and scientific research.

Ezra Vogel China and Japan: Facing History (2019, Belknap Press)

Please note: this is a book discussion, not a talk. The author will not be present.